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HSBC Expert Recommends Three Survival Tips to Build Financial Resilience

Diep Nguyen
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Positive cash flow is a key indicator of financial health and independence. During an economic downturn, unexpected circumstances like job losses or pay cuts can affect your cash flow.

HSBC Expert Recommends Three Survival Tips to Build Financial Resilience
Mark Surgenor, Group Head of Wealth Management at HSBC
Mark Surgenor, Group Head of Wealth Management at HSBC gives the readers some recommendations on how to survive financially well through the Covid-19 pandemic. 
Every crisis, at the time, may feel insurmountable, especially when finances are at stake. If you find yourself in a bind now, take the chance to build in some good habits and work towards your financial fitness. With planning, new adopted habits can carry you through the ‘new normal’.A better relationship with your money can lead to more choices, less stress and an overall better quality of life.
1. Mind your cash flow
Positive cash flow is a key indicator of financial health and independence. During an economic downturn, unexpected circumstances like job losses or pay cuts can affect your cash flow. Look at your daily spending for the last 3 months and analyseyourspending pattern. If you do not track your expenses regularly, start with the line items on your monthly bank and credit card statements and categorise these by priority. See which costs you can cut or minimise right away. This short-term financial minimalism approachcan help you manage your money better.
Plan a spending budget- An old budgeting hack is to practice a ‘minimum spend’ month or week. This is when you only buy pre-agreed essentials to save money and pay down debt or save for a goal. Withlimited lifestyle needs as restrictions still apply in many markets, people can use this time as a proxy ‘minimum spend’ periodas they significantly cut back on discretionary items, entertainment and travel. Allocate these savings for childcareor medical insurance. 
Tailor your lifestyle –This is a good time to reassess what truly enhances your quality of life. Once social restrictions ease and the economy opens up, you can make deliberate decisions on what luxuries or extras you can afford. Dedicate the rest to savings or debt repayment. You can even aim to reduce your work hours to allow one of the partners to stay at home to look after kids, elderly or pets. With better control of your spending, you will have more freedom and optionsto better prepare for future uncertainties.
Cut costs deeper- If you are currently in a situation with no or reduced income, you can go further than just cutting your variable expenses, and analyse your fixed expenses too. In the current situation, there may be restrictions on movinghouses or changing providers but there are still opportunities such as money spent on inflated fees, vehicles, or services you are not actually using. Think about it as financial spring cleaning. Every year, analyse your expenses and cut costs where needed. 
2. Build your net worth
Your net worth is the difference between the value of what you own - your house, retirement funds, investment accounts, checking account balance, savings and other income - minus liabilities such as mortgage, credit card debt and personal loans. Net worth is an important number to keep in mind as it can help you determine just how much your debt can affect your future wealth, as well as highlight the areas you should focus on before retirement.By stabilising the cash flow, the goal is to gradually reduce your liabilities.
Know and prioritise your debt- Debt generally creates expenses as opposed to assets that create income. Debt that is manageable innormal circumstances, can havea crippling effect in a volatile market, especially if one losesthe majority of their income. If you owe money and have monthly payments going out, try to optimize your debt portfolio by paying off your debt with the highest interest first. For most people, that would be credit cards, vehicles and renovation loans. 
There are many relief rates being offered currently on debt, so moving to a more secured form will take the pressure off your cash flow. If you cannot make payments, communicate with your provider as soon as possible. Mortgages tend to be a more acceptable debt to hold because of their lower interest rates. Occasionally, you might even be able to achieve better returns by making your regularly monthly mortgage payments and investing your spare funds elsewhere. Or seek refinancing where it makes sense.
Sweat your assets- Generally, your assets can provide a steady income flow such as property rental or an investment or help reduce your cash outflows such assavings on home rental. Assets can provide greater flexibility, especially in times of a crisis such as an illness, job loss, or a global pandemic.
Build an emergency fund - this should ideally include cash or a cash equivalent that you can draw upon to meet your basic expenses for atleast 6 months. Often overlooked as a benign and boring financial planning tool, it is a safety net that can provide great peace of mind – helping reducestress, buffer spiralling debt, and empower you to take on new opportunities. 
3. Stay positive: Health is the ultimate wealth
People do not make the best decisions while under stress. Also, stress negativelyimpacts health, perhaps our most important advantage in the current times. 
Health protection- Illness and related loss of income can happen to anyone. However, being prepared is the key.It is wise to know where you stand in terms of entitlements for lump sums and income from various sources in case of a health emergency. Ensure you have adequate life insurance cover to maintain a good quality of life for your dependents or to cover liabilities in the future. The premium for term insurance is lower when you buy it at a younger age, and it remains constant for the entire tenure. The current crisis has also brought home the need to for sufficient health insurance. If you are only covered by your company’s health policy, consider a separate cover for yourself and your family members. Remember that in case of a job loss, you will lose the group cover, exposing everyone.  
Create a living will- A will is a document that speaks for you after you pass on, but a living will can be just as important. Communicating your wishes by creating a living will,including your treatment preferences for life sustaining measures - such as the use of a ventilator- is a good way to make sure your choices are heard in times of need. Inform your spouse, family members or next of kin about your care wishes. 
Personal health is the most important asset– A crisis like this can help us focus on what is most important. Startfocusing on a healthy way of living. Reprioritizeyour health goals, making mindful choices around diet, exercise, meditation and even, new hobbies.  Investing in your health will offer you some of the best returns.
Life during an economic disruption can be worrisome even if you are fortunate enough to have a job or a steady source of income. But even in a crisis, it is within our power to fortify our financial, physical and mental well-being, to stay resilient and ready for what’s to come.

DIEP NGUYEN